Racial disparities in healthcare are worsening

Joanna Paje, Contributing Writer

When I graduated as a patient care technician in 2020, I left with a great understanding of the importance of patient care. A patient’s feelings of comfort and security are arguably the most important factors when it comes to healthcare. The doctor’s office, and any kind of medical setting, is where people go during their most vulnerable moments. For some people, simply making the trip to the doctor’s office can be an incredibly distressing situation. Because of this, walking into a physician’s office and feeling comfortable enough to allow a certain level of vulnerability is crucial to a patient’s experience. 

Unfortunately, this is not always the case for people of color. Permitting abuse and mistreatment to continue in such a setting, due to something as superficial as skin color, is immoral and counterintuitive to the purpose of healthcare. 

There are many victims of abuse and racial discrimination in healthcare. As a woman that comes from a Filipino family, being a person of color has affected the way people see me as a technician and as a patient. Unfortunately, I am not the only one who has suffered from such perceptions. There have been moments where I felt I was being treated as less than others in a medical setting as I was quickly dismissed or bombarded with a series of charges, passive-aggressive comments about my finances. There were moments where I was portrayed as superior to my classmates when training to become certified all because of my heritage. Prejudiced thoughts fueled these dehumanizing experiences. 

Every patient should be treated with great care and attention, and whether or not I am perceived as greater than or less than should never be an issue. In the medical field, we are all equal regardless of status. Every healthcare worker swears an oath that their hard work and dedication belongs to the wellbeing of patients, regardless of who they are, what they have done or what they look like. I believe that the integrated racism in America has failed the healthcare system in many ways. 

Racism in the medical field has affected the way minority groups live their lives. According to an article on Medical News Today, “economic disparities between racial groups make it more difficult for some to get healthcare insurance,” meaning that medical care may not be something that minority groups have the have access to. Healthcare should be provided to everyone, but a study in 2014 revealed that around 20% of Black adults did not have access to health insurance. Moreover, racism also leads healthcare workers to “neglect, disbelieve, or actively discriminate against patients” which is incredibly dangerous. Patient neglect and disbelief could lead to worsening conditions, disabilities and death. This abuse goes entirely against the oath sworn by healthcare workers, and this treatment should not go overlooked. 

As a patient care technician, one of my favorite things in the world is seeing a patient smile and feel comfortable around me. Helping patients in any way I can, whether that be taking their temperature, drawing blood samples for a lab or simply performing a head-to-toe assessment, brings me profound joy. I want everyone in a medical setting to feel safe and secure. No one should ever arrive to the doctor’s office afraid that their pain may be undermined or neglected, so I want this issue to get the attention it deserves. Healthcare can be a safe space, and it starts with pre-medicine students striving to be both socially and culturally aware.